LONDON: Microsoft, the IT giant, is launching a new, advertiser-funded video-on-demand service in the UK, which will offer a wide range of content from distributors including the BBC, one of the country's biggest broadcasters.

The new platform will initially make around 350 hours worth of material available, drawn from providers such as BBC Worldwide and All3Media, which has produced a number of programmes that were originally shown on Channel 4.

While the offering will initially only be accessible via PCs, it could be rolled out across channels such as mobile phones or the company's Xbox games console in the future.

GroupM, the media umbrella organisation of WPP Group, has already bought up the initial advertising inventory for the initiative's test period.

Rob Crossen, the portal business manager for MSN, said "we're starting small. This is really concentrating on the PC, but the cross-platform opportunities are obvious, and there to be taken."

"We've learned to understand the different audiences and their different requirements. We're aiming to be one of the most popular services in VOD," he added.

Among the rivals to the new service are the BBC's iPlayer, and similar platforms operated by ITV and Channel 4, while Hulu, the US web property, is also set to launch in the UK later this year.

MSN, Microsoft's main web portal, has around 16 million unique visitors each month, and already offers short video clips covering areas such as news, sport, film and music.

Data sourced from Guardian/Brand Republic; additional content by WARC staff